The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: voyages

On the Road to Meet the Andaman Sea Gypsies. Part II: Boating Amongst the Slaveships in Myeik, Burma.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

A pale-gray haze lay over the port of Myeik, backed by a droning cacophony of outboard motors and dredges. Few were talking. Almost no one was smiling. The scene looked bleak, and the scarcity of the sun didn’t brighten the picture.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

But then almost all commercial fishing ports carry this tone. It was only later, in Thailand, that I came to realize how close to the edge of hell some of these people were living.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

With no permission granted from the government to visit the Mergui Archipelago where the Moken–a small, disenfranchised group of sea-dwelling ethnic Austronesians known in Burma as the Selung–are said to live, I had left Yangon for Myeik, 535 miles to the south where my travel agent–though she’d advised against it–suggested I might find a captain willing to sneak me out to meet the elusive virtuosos of the sea.

My flight had landed earlier that day and I’d caught a motorcycle taxi straight down to the port of Myeik, which I was told would be the busiest and therefore likeliest harbor for me to hitch a ride out to the Mergui Archipelago where the Moken are said to weather monsoon season.

I had no intention of spending a single night in Myeik–I’d already lost enough time in Yangon. It was still early in the morning, and as far as I could tell, the weather looked fair enough to set sail for open water.

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“I was Screaming Sea Shanteys and Shoutin’ at the Gods!” A Glimpse Inside John Lennon’s Sailing Diary.

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John Lennon. Bermuda Bound. Photo Source: Unknown. 

When I was a kid, I was a Beatles fanatic. I was turned onto the band, by my mom of all people, who for some reason gave me the album Magical Mystery Tour when I was maybe nine years old. For some reason too deep for my young mind to fathom, I literally wore out the vinyl grooves pondering its dense layers of sound and meaning. Yellow Submarine and Revolver would have the same effect. The band’s legend was always writ a little more large for me because my aunt lived in a building called the Oliver Cromwell, right across the street from the Dakota, which was home to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. She caught occasional glimpses of the pair ducking in and out of their home right there in front of Central Park. I always craned my neck when we walked by the Dakota, but never got my own glimpse. When Lennon was shot, 35 years ago yesterday, I remember my aunt telling me how for days it was nearly impossible to leave her building for of all the mourners. Even though I was only in eighth grade, I wished I could have been among them.

Today, Scuttlefish commodore Brian Lam hipped me to something I didn’t know about Lennon. He actually became a pretty hardcore sailor late in life. In fact, he credits a hairball journey in June, 1980 from Rhode Island to Bermuda with curing a debilitating bout of writer’s block. It was a voyage that inspired “Watching the Wheels,” “I’m Losing You,” and an early version of “Woman.”

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John Lennon and his son Sean. Photo source: Unknown. 

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Wish You Were Here: The Birthplace of Aotearoa and the Māori People – Hokianga Harbor, New Zealand

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After what is now New Zealand’s discovery, the islands were named ‘Aotearoa’ which means ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’; seen here in the entrance to the Hokianga Harbor from the Tasman Sea. Photo by Carolyn Sotka.

With the ancient Kauri forest shrinking in our rear mirror, my family set off for the west coast of New Zealand with a calm, revered silence from being in the presence of the giant 2000 year old trees. As we slowly lumbered through the woods, thick trees thinned and gave way to rolling hills. A final corner turned and we were met with one of the most magnificent vistas I have ever seen.

Ahead lay the Hokianga Harbor, with bright, golden sand dunes, contrasted against turquoise waters and cliffs peppered with bushes and flowers. Everything about our trip to New Zealand was unexpected, especially this moment. Reminiscent of Big Sur, California with a mix of Vermont and Ireland and pinch of the Swiss Alps in summer, this place was so unique, yet so familiar.

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The Kauri coast leading to the Hokianga Harbor. Photo by Carolyn Sotka.

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Wish You Were Here: Titirangi Bay, Cook Strait, New Zealand

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

It’s a long dirt and gravel road full of hairpin switchbacks to the outer Marlborough Sounds, but the view alone is well worth the journey, even in a tired old truck such as Raw Paua.

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

These are the old whaling grounds of the European settlers, who built lookout stations on the tops of these hills in order to spot the abundance of sperm and humpback whales passing through the Cook Strait. Whaling in New Zealand came to an end in 1964, but some of the stations still stand today. They’re a long hike out, but recommended. Leave the spear at home.

–OJB

A Whale Bone Once Belonging to Sir Ernest Shackleton Just Auctioned in England for a Scant $1800

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Shackleton gifted this whale vertebrae to his sisters in 1907 when his ship, the Nimrod, was anchored in Torquay before he set out for Antarctica. Photo credit: BBC.

The vertebrae was among a trove of items in an auction for a school in Devon, England, where auctioneers had set an unbelievably modest guide price of £300 (or about $450). And to think a stale old biscuit from the Titanic just went in a Southampton auction house for about $23,000…

“It’s nice to keep it in Torquay where it has been for more than 100 years,” said the highest bidder, a local jeweler.

Read more at the BBC.

–OJB

More (Mis)Adventures in #Vanlife: No More Bananas Permitted Aboard Raw Paua.

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD

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Photo: Owen James Burke.

The first time I was old enough to begin my quasi-annual fly fishing trips with my Uncle Thom, I pulled a banana from my boat bag about an hour into our day’s outing. Within what felt like the blink of an eye, the once-bitten banana was out of my hand and drifting downstream past the boat.

I wish I could have seen the confusion smeared across face. I have no doubt that my uncle got a kick out of it.

He later brought to my attention the old angler’s adage: never take bananas aboard a boat. Why?

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. . . Here’s why. Photo: Owen James Burke.

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Navigated by Sun and Stars, Hawaiian Voyaging Canoe Hokule’a Is Officially Halfway Around the World in Mossel Bay, South Africa

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Photo: Na’alehu Anthony/Polynesian Voyaging Society and ‘Oiwi TV.

Congratulations to Hōkūleʻa and crew on reaching Mossel Bay, South Africa, and their successful passage of the Indian Ocean!

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Approaching South African waters, Hōkūleʻa pays customary respect to their hosting nation by flying their ensign. Photo: Sam Kapo/’Oiwi TV.

South Africa marks the officially halfway point of the canoe’s circumnavigation. She’ll head into the South Atlantic for a long crossing over to Brazil. (View a Google map of their proposed route here.)

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“Beyond the West Horizon”: A 1950s Home Movie of a Round the World Sailing Voyage

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“There was never anything to suggest there were other humans on this planet” – Eric Hiscock on the couple’s TransPac voyage. Screenshot from Beyond the West Horizon.

Eric and Susan Hiscock, earlier pioneers of small-boat pleasure cruising, sailed around the world on their 30-foot cutter, Wanderer between 1952 and 1955 during a time when few took to the high seas for any reason other than necessity. The video below is a full-length feature on their journey as filmed and edited by Eric and Susan themselves.

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“I suppose that practically everybody who owns a small boat as a desire–a dream, you might say–to sail around the world.” – Eric Hiscock. Screenshot from Beyond the West Horizon.

The Hiscocks recorded Beyond the West Horizon together during their 3-year, 3-week journey round the world–their first of three. Out in the open ocean, they encounter only one other vessel throughout their entire journey. There was no radar, no emergency rescue and on all but a few stretches, almost all of the steering had to be done by hand, which meant very little sleep.

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Sailing through the Greek Isles. Screenshot from Beyond the West Horizon.

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